The Man Who Stopped the Desert – Yacouba Sawadogo Leave a comment

The Man Who Stopped the Desert – Yacouba Sawadogo

Yacouba Sawadogo, a farmer from Burkina Faso, stopped desertification in his village by working together with his family to plant trees which have now grown into a vast forest. This in response to a long dry spell that, coupled with over-farming, over-grazing and over-population was plaguing the northern part of the country. Initially, farmers in his community ridiculed him and thought he was going mad.

With no access to modern tools and lack of education, he started using an ancient African farming practice called zai, which leads to forest growth and improved soil quality. Gradually, the barren land was transformed into a forty-hectare forest containing over 96 tree and 66 plant species, many of which edible and medicinal, as well as a number of animals.

“Thomas Sankara (who was President of Burkina Faso between 1983 and 1987, editor’s note) launched an appeal to develop initiatives to stop the advancement of the desert – Sawadogo recounts – and when he came to see my work, he asked me what technique I was using and I told him it was zai. That’s why I’m also known as Yacoub Zai”.

Credit: R J Long
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